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Review: Hilarious look at 'Redneck Nation'

By L.D. Meagher
CNN

"Redneck Nation"
By Michael Graham
Warner Books
Humor/Commentary
224 pages


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(CNN) -- A word of warning: Don't read Michael Graham with a mouth full of lemonade. You might just end up spurting it out your nose.

Graham is a devilishly funny, and devilishly clever, radio talk host who makes a habit out of skewering everything Establishment America holds dear.

His new book "Redneck Nation" takes aim at the perceived cultural differences that divide Americans between Northerners and Southerners.

The author is a Southerner, not by birth but by heredity and upbringing. To hear him tell it, his childhood was a long, painful episode of Yankee envy. At his first opportunity, he lit out for what he envisioned would be the more welcoming social climes north of the Mason-Dixon line. He found, to his horror, that the North had somehow become the South, with a funny accent and bad manners.

He cites many examples of this transformation, many of them pertaining to issues of race. Graham is an intellectual conservative (which might be considered an oxymoron in his old neighborhood) who decries intolerance in all its forms. That includes, he argues, affirmative action and multiculturalism.

Poking fun

His political arguments are interesting, but his social observations are hysterical.

"Northern attitudes about college are so different from ours," he writes. "We hear, for example, that Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Brown are popular and well-regarded institutions of higher learning, despite having never appeared in a BCS bowl game. It's a difficult concept for Southerners to fathom."

Or: "I remember my father taking me to Darlington to see Richard Petty (if you have to ask 'Where's Darlington?' you should just skip the rest of this chapter). I was about seven years old and had never even heard the word 'redneck,' but after two hours in that crowd I was struggling to come up with it. Here were tens of thousands of people who understood the physics of air movement, the chemistry of fuel ignition, and the algebra of restrictor plates, but who could probably not operate a manual toothbrush."

"The Chicago Racquet Club is an impressive, imposing building. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman was once a member of the club, and my host went to great pains to have us seated beneath the general's portrait in the dining room. I always enjoy a good joke and tried to play along as best I could given that, had I been at the burning of Columbia, South Carolina, in 1865, my one comment to Sherman would have been, 'You missed a spot.' "

"Redneck Nation" is a literary shotgun wedding between George Will and Jerry Seinfeld. Graham uses observational humor to make his case about the current (sorry) state of American politics and society. In the process, he proves that you can laugh and think at the same time.


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